Lower speed limits will improve health, say doctors

A 20mph zone at Mayfield Road and Ratcliffe Terrace. Picture: Neil Hanna

A 20mph zone at Mayfield Road and Ratcliffe Terrace. Picture: Neil Hanna

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Lower speed limits in built-up areas should be introduced by the Scottish Government to help improve children’s health, according to doctors.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) believes that introducing a 20mph speed limit in built-up areas will promote safe play and encourage children to walk, scoot or cycle to school.

It says more than a quarter of Scottish children are overweight or obese.

The measure is set out in its Vision 2016 manifesto ahead of next year’s Holyrood elections. It calls for “bold policies” to make child health in Scotland “comparable to the best in the world”.

Edinburgh plans to phase in 20mph limits on around 80 per cent of city roads from February next year.

Other proposals from the RCPCH include implementing minimum unit pricing for alcohol and developing education programmes for parents on the dangers of drinking alcohol in pregnancy.

It also wants the government to commission high-quality research dedicated to interventions to reduce inequalities, ensure access to grants and advice for families most in need, and increase the amount spent on child mental health services.

Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian and Scottish Green Party spokeswoman on health, has argued for proper investment in walking and cycling infrastructure, as well as restrictions on the use of private cars in cities and suburbs.

Ms Johnstone, Edinburgh Central’s Green candidate for the Holyrood 2016 election, said: “There are a number of very clear, simple policy changes the Scottish Government can and should make right now. This means strict limits to car use and speed in our cities and suburbs, and a commitment to put ten per cent of the national transport budget towards active travel. It also means making public transport more affordable to people so they don’t need to rely on cars.”

Dr Peter Fowlie, officer for Scotland for the RCPCH, said: “It’s clear we need to take action to reduce child health inequalities, and a child health strategy which cuts across all government departments could do that.

“We call on government to work with us to develop this.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Our priority is to ensure that all children have the best possible start in life but we know there remains much to do.

“We are committed to encouraging initiatives that cut speed, particularly near schools, in residential areas and other areas where there is a significant volume of pedestrian or cyclist activity, as outlined in the good practice guide on 20mph speed restrictions we published earlier this year.”

The plans to bring in 20mph speed limits in the Capital were backed by city councillors earlier this year, but have proved controversial, with more than 6000 residents liking a “Say No to 20mph” page on Facebook and more than 2700 signing a petition calling for the decision to be reversed.

The first three years of the scheme will see £2.22 million spent on signage, road markings, monitoring and awareness campaigns. Zones with the highest incidence of road collisions, pedestrian and cycling activity have been prioritised. However, questions have been raised over how the new network will be enforced.